All systems were go today at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where state and federal agencies needed just one thing to complete the processing of freed hostages from Iraq -- the hostages themselves.
More than 160 people, including 140 U.S. citizens, were held up in London earlier today, delaying the expected arrival time here from late afternoon to early evening.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer planned to be on hand for their arrival. This is the second such airlift of U.S. citizens since Iraqi President Saddam Hussein agreed to release women and children.
Yesterday, more than 300 Westerners arrived in Charleston, S.C., in the first such airlift. Some said they had traveled 67 hours before finally reaching the United States.
The state Department of Human Resources, coordinating the so-called repatriation of the hostages, has been working feverishly all weekend to prepare for this arrival.
The agency was ready to provide the hostages with speedy medical care, day care, hotel rooms, travel connections, food and drink and emergency loans.
It then will be up to the hostages whether they want to leave the airport through a private exit or through the public areas.
DHR normally handles six to seven repatriations in a single year. Under the Iraqi airlift, the federal government has asked that the state be prepared to process up to 300 people in an hour.